LASA-LA @ Unit 120 Chinatown

Before going to LASA-LA, I searched the concept on FTC. No titled posts. Two positive mentions by Aesthete. No details.

Okay, I’ll bite…literally.

I’m feeling like a latecomer to LASA, but in case you haven’t experienced this little darling, it should be on your short list. The food is Filipino-inspired, but rooted in local influence. The inflection strikes a terrific balance which is not traditional Filipino cuisine, but there are components and riffs on the tradition. My meal was really just beautifully executed, well-balanced flavors inspired by the Philippines. If you are seeking Filipino food, this isn’t the place. Think of it as early Chez Panisse Cafe or Zuni. I kid you not. It’s that fresh, soulful and genuine.

Chad (chef) and Chase (FOH) Valencia are brothers who started popping up at the Elysian starting in 2014. Other hosts and staff include friends who are lovely, welcoming, and accommodating.

Parking is a cinch in and around Chinatown’s Far East Plaza which has been thoughtfully and continually curated by George Yu. Along with Ramen Champ, Chego, Pok Pok Phat Thai, Scoops, Howlin’ Rays, and the upcoming Lao Tao, Alvin Cailin’s incubator space Unit 120 is the current location for the LASA team.

The space has no ABC license making BYOB clunky, but happily workable. Only water and sparkling water are offered, so we hopped down to Pok Pok Phat Thai, grabbed a few Soms and had a great time testing, tasting, and mixing drinking vinegars. Chase gladly prepared them if we wished.

There are two fixed menus both $48. One is vegetarian. No one bit on the veggie (who can give up crab & duck?). Apologies in advance for the horrible pics. Takes too long to break the phone out of it’s new case and I feared I’d justifiably draw the ire of my dining compadres.

FIRST COURSE
Cesar Salad

Perfect Little Gem with Cesar dressing gently accented with patis, queso de bola (from the Netherlands), paper thin watermelon radishes, and chives. No single ingredient dominates here. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Incredibly fresh and perfectly seasoned. Solid salad.

SECOND COURSE
Talangka Egg Custard

Think chawanmushi with dungeness crab, “crab butter”, chayote, calamansi kosho, and crispy rice. It’s a party in your mouth. Every bite was different. Texture adverse to custard? No worries. The crispy rice makes the soft texture disappear. The layers of flavors shifted with every bite. It was a symphony. No one wanted the dish to end. My custard was seconds overdone. Just short of perfection being a tad firm and a little separated, but that might have been my fault…I dug in a little late trying to adjust light for that sucky picture. Still, one of my favorite dishes of 2016.

THIRD COURSE
Crispy Pato (Duck)

A leg of duck with excellent crispy skin served with mang tomas sauce (traditional for lechon) made of duck liver. Green garlic farro, sweet pepper, onion escabeche served on the side provided a balance of richness cut by the acidity of the escabeche complimented by the slightly garlicky farro. My duck was a tad dry (probably tough to get that crispy skin without taking the rest of the meat a little over the edge), but the mang tomas compensated nicely by adding moisture and unctuousness. Nonetheless, a great dish.

FOURTH & FINAL
Stone Fruit & Hazelnuts
Condensed Milk Whip, Philippine Sea Salt Caramel

Terrific way to end a meal. A mound of soft melting ice cream made from condensed milk, topped with crunchy hazelnuts and thinly sliced nectarines fanned across the top. A couple of slices of nectarine were underripe, but it is hard to achieve that thin slice with too ripe fruit. Still, the sweetness of the whip and slight drizzle of the caramel compensates for that. Really, it’s a nit probably. One in our party doesn’t eat dessert and cleaned the bowl.

If you haven’t been to LASA, get your game on and GO. They plan on keeping this menu until the 26th of this month. They’ll do a 4th of July BBQ and transition to a new menu. Can’t wait to see what they do next. Solid QPR for $48, plenty of food for the boys.

If it helps, pairings for this menu, off-dry Riesling, a light-bodied Rose or Chenin through to the Talangka, then a heavier bodied rose or slightly cooled light bodied red (think Gamay) for the duck. Moscato D’Asti for the stone fruit course would be great. For beer, something like Bruery’s Tradewinds or Blackberry Farm Saison through the custard. For the duck, a sour (sour neutralizes sour and cuts the fattiness), Dubbel, or Doppelbock. Plan your drinks ahead and you’ll get off to a good start. Otherwise, be prepared for a slow, clumsy, unlubricated start.

LASA was a lovely experience with warm, welcoming service and a near perfect dining progression. I expected Philippine cuisine, but was pleasantly surprised instead by California’s finest ingredients inflected with and informed by Philippine tradition which transcended my expectations all the way around. If you want pow pow pow pungent in your face flavors, this is not your cuisine. But if you want a beautifully balanced, well-executed, humble, yet refined meal, you should go.

I don’t usually do a full review, but thought more folks should know and enjoy!

LASA-LA @ Unit 120
at least through July
727 North Broadway #120
Chinatown
213-443-6163
Info@lasa-la.com
Friday-Sunday
www.LASA-la.com

10 Likes

Did I not review them properly? Shit…

Yeah these guys are insane. I expect they will end up with their own place post Unit 120.

I’ve been missing their early hours because of a music festival but I will hit them up his weekend I think.

Their new format is very reminiscent of Taco Maria’s early days and the cooking from their past was nearly as good and looks better now.

No worries, Aesthete. Just glad you even gave them a mention.

How is their new format different from what they used to do?

For sure.

They used to be completely a la carte.

But they did do some tasting menu stuff in partner dinners with Irenia that presaged their current format.

Interesting!

We ate at Irenia SanTana earlier this month for lunch and dinner. Haven’t had a chance to post it. It was great, but not at the level of LASA, much humbler and simpler. Think they’d only been open for days at that point.

June 2017 report. Well I finally made it. Was long time coming. We really dug it but especially at BYOB pricing (which was still 130 all in for 2x2x2)

this little crunchy rice flour snack was cool while we tried to catch a buzz via an Au Bon Climat Aligote

Tartare was really superb, it’s made creamy with some aoili they make with something called pastis? i’m not versed… great tanginess and bite… the chips were equally good

She wanted the char grilled carrots on a mild carrot puree with chicken chicharon so we got it. Carrots were really cool, I wish they didn’t deconstruct the chicken skin themselves, it ruined both texture and flavor for me

I took the octopus main with bunch of steamed rice (to fill up with my kid) It’s hard for me to pass up octopus anywhere… this one was good… fairly average toughness in texture, almost where i like it, i don’t want it completely soft either… the spicy chilis were an awesome accent as were the bitter greens and radish… broth is really great, light, with pungent fish sauce aroma, almost too much but i like fish sauce. big rubarb tartness

she went for the special beef tongue kare kare… tongue was amazing, braised until tander, then crisped up, on top of a peanut sauce that’s supposed to remind of kare kare but i’ve never had it… quite good

for dessert we went for the coconut pudding with fresh farm fruit and toasted coconut and tapioca because i can’t pass up creamy coconut things

it was stupid good…

got a second

sweetest people there, lovely atmosphere and i’m looking forward to returning… once they get their wine license the price will be on par with a lot of restaurants and will put it in the for special occasions category for me.

but the concept works… food feels innovative and fresh, people are interested and curious and walk out wanting to try traditional Filipino food. I tend to always prefer traditional, unmodernized, undeconstructed restaurants because centuries of food history perfecting dishes are seldom wrong but this place works. It’s quite good.

3 Likes

They serve alcohol or did you bring your own? I thought there was no alcohol that could be consumed on premises.

Uh. Never mind officer. I was joking

I thought they wouldn’t let you BYOB which is why we haven’t been yet. I have a couple of winos in our group. Thanks.

Hmm they definitely encouraged me to BYOB. Even got a text message about it when I made the reservation

Risky business them folks.

never mind.

Patis is a Filipino fish sauce, much saltier than other Asian fish sauces like Nuoc mam

A solid meal for me last night, need to go again soon. There is a thoughtfulness to the seasoning and saucing here, with each having a few more components than you expect, yet there is a sense of lightness and simpleness to each dish. Nothing much else to say, just get it all.

Asian pear and radicchio salad, beef tartar, and sweet potato croquetas:
IMG_2088

Crispy duck leg:
IMG_2089

Condensed milk ice cream with black sesame:
IMG_2090

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really dig this place

Is their a dish that I must get here?

Tartare for me probably… and whatever dessert they have… she’s incredible

Beef Kilawin, Chicken Adobo, and Coconut Cornmeal Empanada.

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What’s the reservation situation here? I’ve been wanting to go for awhile, but I never have my shit together far enough in advance to successfully make a reservation. Do they accept walk-ins?

Yes